Employees differ in training needs

Work with individual learning styles

If you stick to one teaching style for all of your patient access staff, this process can result in poor morale, warns Tracy Abdalla, assistant manager of hospital access services at University of California -- Davis Medical Center Hospital.

"They can become very disenchanted with the process, because they aren't understanding what you're teaching," she says. "By working with their learning style, you'll make them feel more comfortable."

Some registrars learn best by jumping in and working hands on, while others would rather see others do the job or read step-by-step instructions, says Abdalla.

Training might entail use of practice systems that allow the user an opportunity to complete the task without fear of making errors with active patient data, she notes. "For those who need to hear or read the information, we utilize PowerPoint presentations and classroom training, and we provide support documentation with training manuals," she says.

Here are some methods Abdalla uses to train her patient access staff:

• She works alongside the employee to determine his or her learning style.

"While working alongside of new employees, I'm able to review the type of notes they may be taking," says Abdalla. "Do they write down information word for word, or do they jot it down with bullet points?"

Those who write it down with bullet points often learn best by completing tasks hands-on, says Abdalla. Thus, she moves to the side and talks them through the process while they complete it.

Employees who write information down with the details tend to re-read their notes and often do best by reading the manuals or viewing computerized graphic presentations, says Abdalla.

• She emphasizes the personal connection to patients.

"Show them that the job is not just paper, insurance information, and computers, but people," she advises. "Remind them the people you're dealing with today could be you or your loved one tomorrow."

• She partners new hires with experienced staff.

These staff members will share shortcuts to completing processes and show their own way of performing certain tasks, says Abdalla. For example, registration can be completed by writing patient data on a face sheet, then returning to a work station to type the same data into the registration system, she says. However, it also can also be done by using bedside computers or mobile workstations so the registration is entered into the computer, Abdalla says.

Experienced staff members can demonstrate to new hires that while insurance eligibility can be verified by phone one patient at a time, insurance web sites can be used to verify several patients at one time using a batch eligibility process.

"This will help the new hire to see that it's possible to complete the same task in several ways," Abdalla says. "They will eventually adapt the best practices from each person, to develop their own rhythm in the registration process."


For more information on training patient access staff, contact:

• Tracy Abdalla, Assistant Manager, Hospital Access Services, University of California — Davis Medical Center Hospital. Phone: (916) 734-3282. Fax: (916) 734-0550. Email: tracy.abdalla@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu.

• Deborah L. Brown, CHAA, Education Coordinator, Quality Assurance and Staff Development, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston. Phone: (843) 792-3808. Fax: (843) 792-0108. Email: hutchind@musc.edu.